Tag Archives: Native American

The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being (Part I)

FACT: All Asian Americans are Asian by definition, but not all Asians are Asian Americans. The truth is that most Asians aren’t. While they may share an ethnic heritage, as well as many cultural similarities, Asian people who were born and raised in and reside in an Asian country have vastly different wants and needs and priorities than those who were born and raised in and reside in North America [and other non-Asian countries].

I wanted to start out with that quote for two reasons.

First, because it’s stolen from my co-writer’s post last Friday, which was a really good post you should read.

Second, because I think it does a good job of establishing the complicated and sometimes uncomfortable nuance that goes into addressing identity politics. Which is what we’re going to be talking about today and in the weeks to follow.

More specifically, we’re gonna be talking about White people.

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We’ll probably cover my use of this specific gif sometime later…

Before we dive in, I just wanna make something clear.

Race is a social construct – a series of categories that we’ve made up and ones we’ve made up only very recently in the scope of history. The fact of the matter is that there’s no actual place you can draw a dividing line when it comes to human beings and there’s no good reason you’d want to.

Not that it’s ever stopped us.

For better or worse, we have divided the world up into so many arbitrary categories, and those divisions have played and continue to play a major role in today’s culture. In spite of what some folks might suggest, ignoring racism doesn’t make it go away, and if we want to end the unspeakable hassle that is identity politics, we’re going to need to start by actually addressing them.

And here at Culture War Reporters, I think we’ve done a decent job. Continue reading

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The Presidents’ Day Post

It’s one of the few holidays we get in the US, and seeing as how the nation’s executive office is as much a part of our cultural identity as it is part of our politics, it’d be remiss if we didn’t cover the topic. Below are some of the most interesting topics about the men who’ve lived in the oval office and how they’re affecting culture even to this day.

George Washington

The Image: Heroic freedom-fighter who bled liberty and could speak to bald eagles.

The Reality: Slave-owner, who was apparently abusive enough that many of his slaves tried to escape to freedom. Also a pretty bad general, in the greater scope of things, having lost the majority of battles in his military career.

The Implications: The idea that our founding fathers were somehow demigods of democracy and equality is shoved down our throats at most every opportunity, and as a result we’ve got a culture that constantly asks “What would the founders have wanted?” whenever any big social debate breaks out. Rather than deal with the problem as-is, both sides of the aisle try to appeal to the interpretations of men who owned slaves. For all the good they did do, I’m not sure I’m going to care too much for their opinion on property rights (or immigration, seeing as how they were huge racists). Continue reading

Arizona’s Attack on Mexican-American Studies

It occurs to me that it’s been too long since we actually had an actual “report” here, rather than rabid opinion piece. To that end, we’re going to be examining the state of Arizona’s recent assault on its Mexican-American ethnic studies programs. This story isn’t the freshest (or a full-on report; baby steps, people), but with relatively new developments, and how little attention the story was given in general, it’s worth reviewing.

In spring of 2010, Arizona decided to ban ethnic studies classes in its public schools for grades K-12 (HB [House Bill] 2281). Of course, by “ethnic studies”, the state of Arizona meant “Mexican-American/Chicano” studies, and as Tuscon school board member Michael Hicks clarified:

“Honestly, this law won’t be applied to any other of our [ethnic studies] courses. It was strictly written for one course, which is the Mexican-American studies program.”

-Interview with The Daily Show’s Al Madrigal, 04/02/12 Continue reading

Shame Day: Microaggressions

A few weeks ago I stumbled onto a website called The Microaggressions Project and then promptly forgot about it. Returning to it tonight I looked over the “About” page, which had the following paragraph at the top:

This project is a response to “it’s not a big deal” – “it” is a big deal. ”It” is in the everyday. ”It” is shoved in your face when you are least expecting it. ”It” happens when you expect it the most. ”It” is a reminder of your difference. ”It” enforces difference. ”It” can be painful. ”It” can be laughed off. ”It” can slide unnoticed by either the speaker, listener or both. ”It” can silence people. ”It” reminds us of the ways in which we and people like us continue to be excluded and oppressed. ”It” matters because these relate to a bigger “it”: a society where social difference has systematic consequences for the “others.”

A little later on they define what “microaggressions” are, a term that was originally coined to speak about racial experiences. From the essay “Racial microaggressions in everyday life: implications for clinical practice,” which appeared in American Psychologist, Vol. 62, No.4:

“Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”

One example of this could be a White couple walking down the street and having a Black man pass by them on the sidewalk. The woman clutches her purse tighter against her body, the subconscious idea being, of course, that Black men are prone to crime and should not be trusted.

As an Asian-Canadian I’ve experienced microaggressions plenty of times. I’ve had someone ask me if I was half-White [I am clearly not] with their rationale being that my “English was very good.” It can be an everyday occurrence for non-White people [I deign to use the word minorities, since I do believe that balance is turning the other way], and begs the question: “Why is this such a big deal?”

Writer of the aforementioned article and author of Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation, Derald Wing Sue, PhD, has observed that microaggressions have actually been found to: “(a) assail the mental health of recipients, (b) create a hostile and invalidating work or campus climate, (c) perpetuate stereotype threat, (d) create physical health problems, (e) saturate the broader society with cues that signal devaluation of social group identities, (f) lower work productivity and problem solving abilities, and (g) be partially responsible for creating inequities in education, employment and health care.”

In other words, a Black or Latino man being stopped for a “random vehicle check” by police could be upset, and may even be accused of overreacting. Maybe they should simply be used to this and not let it bother them. The truth is that it makes them feel, even if only subconsciously, like second-class citizens. It’s true in a case as blatant as this one, and in an as subtle an action as hanging a Confederate flag or  having a Native American stereotype as a high school mascot.

To broaden this to the scope that The Microaggressions Project seeks to attain, microaggressions can include people saying to a person with Asperger’s, with no ill-intent whatsoever, “That you seem so normal!” It can be a 17-year-old girl being told by her gynecologist that just because she has access to birth control pills doesn’t mean she can just sleep around.

Microaggressions work in every direction. It’s like going to a Vietnamese restaurant and being given a fork and spoon instead of chopsticks because you’re White and not Asian. Microaggressions are built on assumptions and can make people painfully aware of who they are. They are rarely meant to offend, but often do. 

It truly is a shame that so much of the time we send out microaggressions without so much as a second thought, and then defend ourselves by deeming the offended to be “too sensitive.” While we won’t always be aware of how our words or actions can harm others, we can at the very least listen to the people being hurt, and in doing so try to lessen the presence of microaggressions in our society.

A Response to Kotaku’s “Why a Colonial Assassin’s Creed Makes Complete Sense (and Sounds Awesome)”

At least one spoiler present.
                                                                                                                                                                      

No matter the medium, there have always been dominant themes in literature.

I realize that today is Elisa’s day to post, but I just had to get on this Assassin’s Creed bandwagon before it was too late. To get this out of the way, I have played Assassin’s Creed II on the Xbox 360, and enjoyed it immensely. I have not yet had the chance to play its two sequels, Brotherhood or Revelations.

Kotaku and other gaming news sites have released the cover of the game, seen on the right. It’s pretty evident from this that the game will take place during the American Revolution, a far cry from the Holy Land of 1911 and Renaissance Italy. Kotaku’s article, mentioned in the title of the post, is “Why a Colonial Assassin’s Creed Makes Complete Sense (and Sounds Awesome),” and this is a point by point response to what its author, Luke Plunkett, feels about the new setting for the latest in the franchise.

THE REVOLUTION DESERVES BETTER

Plunkett’s point here is that this is an era in American history that’s taken on a “mythical status in the hearts and minds of many Americans.” He then goes on to say that there’s “very little mythical about it.”

What I think he’s trying to say is that the game will help reveal the realism behind the American Revolution, but for some reason I think that using a franchise all about how aliens are working through a group named Assassins to save the world may not be the best way of doing so.

THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE TREES

Here arises the argument that Colonial American will not have the vast cityscapes, et cetera, that the older European settings have. Plunkett reminds readers that cities like Philadelphia were actually quite large.


I question, I suppose, the very title of this particular point. Yes, there will be trees that are scalable, as seen above, but will all of them be this way? I imagine that having an entire forest of interactable objects would be difficult to pull off, but I guess that’s technology these days.

That’s all I really have to say about this. There will be, as he mentioned, churches and ship masts and things to provide those look-out points, so that really shouldn’t be a huge issue.

NATIVE AMERICANA

Yes, I entirely agree. It’s definitely very, very cool that the protagonist of this game is speculated to be, at least, half Native American. It’s a large, incredibly popular series, and it’s fantastic to see a little bit of diversity to mix up the “athletic white male protagonist” that dominates the industry.

GUNS & STEEL

Again, not a point I can argue against. There are those who say that this is a time period in which the presence of gunpowder is too large, but it’s highly debatable. Plunkett is entirely  correct when he says that smaller skirmishes were highly dependent on bayonets and swords. Native Americans, of course, often used tomahawks and bows, both of which are present in the images above.

PLENTY OF TARGETS

Another good point. A block quote will wrap up pretty well what his point is:

You’ve got established colonials. European immigrants from all corners of the continent. Local militias. The Continental Army. The British Army. Tens of thousands of Germans fighting for the British Army. The Royal Navy. The French Army. The French Navy. The Spanish Army. Slaves. Not to mention Native Americans on both sides (and stuck in the middle).

Basically, there are lots of people to kill. You are, after all, an Assassin.

SUPPORTING CAST

Leonard da Vinci appeared [as a gay man, actually] in Assassin’s Creed II, among many other historical figures. That being said, it’s entirely expected that characters such as Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, et cetera, might be making appearances.

An issue that has been brought up a good number of times is that many of America’s Founding Fathers were thought to be Freemasons. Freemasonry has often been connected to the Templars, who are the sworn enemies of the Assassins.

That being said, will this game’s protagonist be trying to assassinate well-known figures in American history? See: the following point-

AMERICA F-CK YEAH?

Look at the cover of the game. Now without bothering to make overly lengthy references to Old Spice commercials, look at it again. It’s the protagonist of an extremely popular video game franchise taking the tomahawk to a British soldier’s face. In the background flies Betsy Ross’ 13-star variant of the American flag. That seems like a loaded image, to say the least.

This is the point I’ve been waiting to get to. Allow me to, again, use a block quote to present where Plunkett is coming from:

I’ve already seen a few people complaining that this is yet another game about America, that it’s a shame to see a series that had been so un-American end up so, well, American. That to me sounds ridiculous. The America you’re sick of seeing wouldn’t be the America represented in a Colonial video game. This is that nation’s origin story, and as such will sound and feel much more European (particularly British) than anything you normally associate with electric guitars and square jaws.

Do I agree? Somewhat. Yes, to follow the story Desmond’s ancestors would have had to make it to America at some point, so I suppose this was inevitable, but did there have to be an entire game about it? Just staring at the cover makes me uncomfortable; it practically bleeds nationalism.

That being said, at the very least it’s no Homefront, the 2011 FPS that’s premise is that North Korea has invaded the US and you’re fighting to win it back. No one with any sense of international relations could see this as being possible, and the very concept is unnervingly jingoistic.

Plunkett ends his article by saying that “the guys making the game [. . .] aren’t American either.” This is true, as the game is being produced by Ubisoft Montreal. Why this studio has decided to go with this concept as well as this kind of approach to marketing the game is questionable, and one I’m interested in finding out. From a general observation I can see this as being a game that appeals to gamers in general [it’s a good series], but Americans in particular.